Focus on the music FIRST!!by Edie "The Salsa Freak&quot

Discussion in 'Just Dance' started by Tropical, May 20, 2007.

  1. Tropical

    Tropical Changui

    Hi everyone, Someone forwarded this to me. I thought will be nice to share with you all. You may read it already. But this is such a nice article that i read it again and again. Feel free to leave comments. :)

    Focus on the music FIRST... The beat (timing) SECOND!!
    - by Edie "The Salsa Freak"

    The more I travel, the more I'm finding that dancers are too hung up over whether they are dancing on1, or on2, or "on clave", or on3 or the "style". They get so caught up in these trivial subjects, that THEY COMPLETELY FORGET ABOUT DANCING TO THE SONG AND/OR MUSIC. I've had dances where the song is over, but because my partner has not "finished his turn pattern yet", we're still dancing to "no sound".

    HELLOOO! There is such a thing as a song. Most songs tell a story, with a beginning and ending. The middle of the story may have a drama, filled with peaks, valley, breaks, and hits. Then there is the ending. The song is now over, so stop dancing.

    Whatever happened to hitting the breaks on a pause in the music? Why do guys continue to MISS THE HITS, PEAKS, VALLEYS, and PAUSE OPPORTUNITIES in the songs?

    I can't tell you how frustrated I get when I can see a pause, or hit in the music is coming, and I annoyingly get stuck in the middle of it doing a turn or completing a turnpatterns.... I usually end up thinking to myself. "I can't believe this guy COMPLETELY MISSED that amazing hit in the music."

    The guy is so caught up in his turn pattern and fancy moves, that he becomes COMPLETELY OBLIVIOUS that he dancing to a SONG = MUSIC. There is nothing more frustrating than being put into arm-knot, turn combinations from hell, combo after combo after combo and completely missing out on the dramas within the music. I get the feeling that people are only listening to the beat (timing). If that's the case, we may as well just dance to a simple drumbeat then. It wouldn't make ANY difference.
    Please people, honor the musicians and songwriters of this incredible music we call Salsa. Dance to their MUSIC - not just to their beat.
    There is nothing more wonderful than dancing with a partner who truly knows how to interpret THE MUSIC, and understands how to lead into THE MUSIC without batting an eyelash. Sure, you can dance on1 or on2 or whatever, but play with the song. Interpret the music. Have fun with it! I am 1000 times more impressed with someone who dances to the MUSIC, than I am with someone dancing to certain timing.
    Dancing Salsa is not about how many spins you can do or give her, or how twisted and mangled up you both can get in and out of in a move that only looks good with a pro and his partner who have rehearsed it for months.

    I can't tell you how many arm knots and turn patterns from hell I get put into because these guys think "-This is Salsa and this is what it's all about". Half the time, my face gets stuck in his armpit, and it just doesn't make for a very comfortable dance. I see more and more women going through absolute hell out there. They get all dolled up for the evening, and end up looking like they've just been run through a violent storm. Men are forgetting that they are dancing with another HUMAN BEING trying to enjoy a SONG for crying out loud. Sometimes I think they are handling a high performance vehicle, and want to slam, ram, and throw her into gears only attempted on the autobahn (motorway).

    Guys, if the girls aren't able to follow 30% of your moves, you're forgetting the music, and are missing out on some amazing DANCING. Get back to basics. Sometimes I just want to have a lovely sensual dance with a man who will take care of me on the dance floor (meaning looks around when dancing on a crowded dance floor). Someone who will love me for those precious three minutes and sweep me away into the music with him.

    Many of the advanced guys treat me like a brand new Ferrari. Imagine getting a new sports car. The temptation is to put it through all its paces and see how fast you can make it go and what you can get away with. I'd rather have a calm, relaxed dance with a beginner or intermediate dancer who understands the music, and pauses or dips at each break within the song, than have to perform at high speeds for every "advanced" guy who wants to see how many spins or flash moves I can follow.

    Don't dance me... LET ME DANCE.
    Bottom line guys, you don't have to know every trick in the world to please a woman. Just make her feel comfortable and allow her the joy of the song, and just being in your arms for a change.

    Dance to the MUSIC.

    Dance to the SONG.

    Please feel free to forward this article to the ENTIRE PLANET!!!!! We need a change in the Salsa scene... before we scare away all the beginners... !!!!

    As a lady and beginner like me, I should say I get really freaked out to dance with a advanced dancer as because they always have a lot of complex moves that i wish i can follow. Most of time I found I try to figure out how to follow the moves instead of listening the music, and missed out the beat/timing. And I always find quite hard to be on time although my moves and spins are fine, wondering if anyone can give me some suggestions to get better on timing? I did start listen the salsa music very often now and try to pick up the beats. But once i get on to the dance floor, everything is gone out of the window. :cry:
  2. tj

    tj Shine Officer

    Re: Focus on the music FIRST!!by Edie "The Salsa Freak&

    With some more practice and more familiarity, it'll come to you. Just gotta be patient and keep on dancing.
  3. SalsaTO

    SalsaTO Son Montuno

    Song Before Beat - Wish They All Could

    Edie has most of it right. The perfect dance is a combination of moves that plays the music to the follower's ability and the leader's repetoire.

    What Edid does not say is just as important .

    It takes several years for a guy to hear and remember enough songs to know where and when they rise and fall to anticipate where to put in pauses, drops, dips or soft moves vs hard moves. Most guys are not on the scene long enough to get to that level.

    And, most guys are not around long enough to master their repetoire enough to mix and match to play the music's highs and lows and pauses. Instructors to not teach them to 'dance to the music' either. Guys want to learn the turn patterns, so that is what the instructors have to do.

    Sadly, many guys run through what they know - again and again and again... They can only do what they know.

    In Canada we call dancers like that 'spin bots' or 'turn technicians.' All they need is a metronome set to a salsa beat. If they stick around long enough, some of them change as the music permeates their psyche.

    Like anything else, mastery of music and turns and the beat comes with time on task - and there is no magic formula to get around that.

    Some instructors do run 'musicality' classes which try to match moves to music and show the leaders and the followers how the music rises and falls and where one can 'predict' what the music will do. but, that does require enough knowledge or skill to stay on beat and know enough turn patterns to be open to mix and match them to bring their dance to the next level.
  4. noobster

    noobster Pattern Police

    Re: Song Before Beat - Wish They All Could

    Well that's interesting. Why don't guys stay on the scene for too long, do you think? Around here there seem to be lots of people who have been dancing a looong time... years and years. What makes people leave salsa elsewhere? Do they get bored with it or is it just life getting in the way?
  5. jayzen

    jayzen Tumbao

    hi all

    haha, this ties in very nicely to my post about musicality (see other thread).

    as to why not all people stay on, i guess it's life. people go thru different stages from swinging singles to contented grandparenthood. different stages of life means increasing commitments elsewhere - work, family and so priorities change.

  6. terence

    terence Maestro 'Descarga' Cachao

    An interesting q,.-- Looking backwards at the "latin " clubs I frequented over the many yrs, there was always a hard core of regulars.

    Sure, there were dropouts, but for what reasons ? , as someone said, there are many. Saw several return , after 3 or 4 yrs and in some cases, longer.

    It seemed that the older clientele , were the ones who had the staying power .

    But--- the main factor-- I believe-- they were all Hispanics , and this was a " cultural " thing , just like the neighbourhood pub/bar .

    Walking into clubs like these, was like going to a family re union. Many acknowledged you ,and made you feel like family .

    Admittedly , this was a very dominantly latino populated area ( not miami ) But have seen this in several towns with a similar club structure .
  7. azzey

    azzey El Sabroso de Conguero

    Sure commitments are one thing. However ask any beginner/intermediate dancer how they feel and most say they're struggling to break through a barrier to get to where it's comfortable to dance with the partners they want to dance with.

    Like was said in the Musicality thread, that level changes with time. Either expectations are reduced by a beginner thinking he/she will be like the best in the club in only a few months or an intermediate raising his expectations as he improves.

    Any teacher knows that they usually lose a large number of students as they begin to teach moves which require more technique - like the CBL/Dile Que No. The ones that stay struggle through beginner hell. Once they break through and can enjoy dancing all is well for a while. Then the question becomes satisfaction with what you have. Some are and some want more. If they can't get what they want - whether it's regular dances with the beautiful advanced dancer or enough fun partners at their level they may not come as often, decide to leave or take a break.

    The more you dance and have fun the more you want to dance. The less you dance.. well.. you can see where that's leading.

    The rest we know about - because we see them every week!
  8. AndrewS

    AndrewS Shine Officer

    You missed out the people who get really good then stop going because there aren't enough people of their level to dance with (admittedly this is a much smaller group) or the people who get into a performance group and disappear off the social scene for a few months whilst they learn their choreography.
  9. memito

    memito Son

    I completely agree with Edie and have worked to try to dance to the music and not just execute a series of turn patterns (and there is much work yet to be done).

    I concur that it does take time to anticipate the characteristics and movements of a song. Clearly, listening to music helps, even to the point that one will begin to see patterns in certain types of salsa that seem to pop up in songs that you have never heard before. Many songs have elements in them that are true tells of how and where their openings / endings, breaks and bridges are going to be. But musicians seem to recognize this and throw in some tricks (including time changes) to throw the 1st time listener off (or in other words, make the music more interesting).

    Regardless, it is strange to see guys put their followers through regular partnerwork during a conga solo or a hard instrument solo. (But this becomes somewhat hard to avoid if they are dancing with women that don’t like shines or hesitations.) Ultimately it is the lead’s responsibility to fit his moves to his follower’s likes and abilities and then to the music. Unfortunately, I get the impression that some guys are running some sort of exercise drill and are more interested in “succeeding / completing” these drills than connecting with their partner.
  10. KP-salsa

    KP-salsa Shine Officer

    Although applauding Edie's thoughts behind this article, I think she's being way over-the-top in her stress. "Focus on the music first - the beat second" - yeah? well both are vital - you won't get far dancing to the music and off the beat (any beat). "Why do guys continue to MISS THE HITS, PEAKS, VALLEYS, and PAUSE OPPORTUNITIES in the songs?" maybe because until you've been dancing for many months - sometimes years - you've got many many other things to be thinking about. etc etc. Some dancers are total naturals - whether through previous dancing experience or just something inside them - others take a lot of work to get over a self-consciousness, to develop their comfort with moving their bodies in ways that don't come easily, to gather a range of moves (yeah, moves aren't they awful anddon't they get in the way of the music) that can be danced and led without a thought and then they can do more with the music other than starting at the start and ending at the end.

    Male dancers need encouragement - they have fragile egos :D so anyone shouting at them when they're trying their hardest is likely to make a lot just give up. I blame teachers who churn out turn patterns and dvds of turn patterns and only turn patterns and yet more turn patterns, giving the impression that moves and more moves are what's wanted whereas if they analyed their own dancing (if they're really any good) they'd see that there's much more to their dancing. The trouble is that it's an awful lot easier to teach the turn patterns.

    If you're serious about your dancing, you'll reach a stage where you develop your musical understanding and interpretation naturally. Teachers should encourage this by taking classes out from time to time to take a song apart and show how this can be developed (The Bear Can Dance Too did this with us once or twice). Unfortunately, in the same way we see girls doing cookie-cutter shines that they've been taught and learnt by rote (maybe at one of Edie's workshops) when they're in control of what they do - shines that don't reflect their personality at all - guys will, until they're completely comfortable dancing, simply work through moves they've learned and are proud to have remembered.

    Maybe Edie's militant evangelical streak doesn't cross the Atlantic well. What she's talking about seems to be stating the obvious and should be the aim of all dancers - dancing to the music, without worrying about the beat and timing and your footwork and all the while taking your partner with you every step of the way is - for most of us - only something that comes after a lot of serious committed dancing.

    If this article is solely aimed at dancers who have been dancing for 5 years plus, then I applaud her, but berating guys who aren't elite dancers for not hitting every nuance of a song when he's concentrating on smoothing and clarifying his lead and building connection with his partner is a bit much. I don't think it would encourage me to ask her to dance if every time I missed a dramatic beat I could hear her teeth grinding because she was thinking "I can't believe this guy missed that break in the music".

    I think that if the same article had been written in a different tone, I'd be much happier with it and in total agreement. (And the cynical side of me wonders if Edie's about to bring out a "Dance to the Music - not the beat" series of intensive DVDs and Boot Camps). I've just returned from a week's salsa holiday in Barcelona where Marchant Birch was teaching - throughout the week's workshops he always emphasised dancing with your heart, use the music, dance in ways that will help your partner to express herself safely and beautifully and was all about building confidence and inspiring his pupils. He did this in a way that wasn't aggressive, wasn't dismissive of people and didn't involve shouting "Hellooo - there is such a thing as a song!"

    I wholeheartedly agree with her message - the music is the point, not the beat - but we all have to start with the beat and timing and build up, in a long and sometimes frustrating and painful process, to feeling and using the music. Rather than berating dancers, Edie should probably be berating teachers who don't emphasise this side of dancing enough.

    *sorry about the length of this reply - unfortunately I agree with what Edie says, just not how she says it *
  11. Couldn't agree more with Edie. I'm glad that she has voice out what's going on for the ladies ;)
  12. chrisk

    chrisk Super Moderator Staff Member

    And taking part in a musicality workshop can be quite helpful in starting to hear the patterns. It helped me a lot to hear the patterns and now I listen with a lot more attention to any salsa music.

    I guess this is related to the way that you learn to dance salsa. If you've just learned steps and patterns, I think most people will just dance whatever happens in the music. So I guess it's up to the instructor to also teach some concepts of salsa music.

    And regarding my local scene. I regularly see people doing partnerwork instead of either doing some shines or standing still, because the music stopped. (Like in Valio La Pena with a clear break). But as far as I know neither of our dance teacher here spends some time teaching musicality.
  13. wmusenorita

    wmusenorita Changui

    I found that the musicality came to me naturally and I am now learning the technique. I liked salsa music before I had been introduced to the dance and I guess that helps. The more you listen to salsa music, the easier it is to anticipate certain breaks, changes in rythyms etc. Blessed is the person who has both musicality and technique(naturally), but there are probably few and far inbetween. One thing that helps is picking out the different instruments and clapping out the beat of that particular instrument. There tends to be alot going on in salsa music... so to break it down instrument by instrument may help. But just thank your luck stars that you've got technique! The musicality will come.
  14. Swannie

    Swannie Descarga

    I was waiting for that :p Marchant is pretty good at showing the other stuff, and talking about "letting" it out (though he does talk a bit too much for my liking - as you say, guys need to learn the moves first before freeing up brain power to concentrate on other stuff - he just starts talking about "feeling" it too soon in his classes!).

    I totally agree with Edie's sentiments, but I do honestly believe that all dancers need to hear it - they need to know where they are going. Dancing to the music, rather than just in time to the music, should be imparted to beginners - to introduce them to the idea of repeating bars in the music, starting their moves on the changes in the music etc. Sure, not all beginners will get it, but some will.
  15. sagitta

    sagitta Pattern Police

    Re: Focus on the music FIRST!!by Edie "The Salsa Freak&

    No worries...If I dance with you don't think about teh moves. Just about responding to me.

    AS for the timing I don't follow any rules...just step and when we get to the good ol e basic or back breaks or something you'll be on the right foot! I promise...cross my heart and hope to dies...if I tell a lie.. is that hwo that goes? ;)

    Much of my dancing really is about stepping to the music...and it doesn't necessarily follow that it is that of convention..e.g. lady steps back on right at beginning of slot salsa basic on1. PLease trust yourself with me, and I won't let you down. Every move in a dance is a combination of both partners participating...if something gets a little stuck I like the challenge. I've come up with most of my dancing that way...

    Once a lady seemed a little resistant to a tunnel and I just turned that into me rotating around her for a little while. I don't think anyone else noticed that anything untoward was happening...then released the lady into an open position and she just naturally went out and when I signalled to come back she recoiled right back into my arms and a teeny dip. My very first dip done that way... And that was the lady helping no way jose I would have done the dip without her reactions. And I had never done that dip before so it wasn't as if I had it planned...

    I'm beginning to think I need to start doing argentine I'm becoming such a radical salsa activist! ;-)
  16. sagitta

    sagitta Pattern Police

    Re: Song Before Beat - Wish They All Could

    Are you suggesting that we hear songs long enough to memorize them? If we are talking about songs I blame playing the same songs over and over for driving me nuts! Play some new songs and I'm energized. I really partner sparks and we go wild. Play the same "crap" you play every night, which is "crap" because I'm sick of hearing it then I'm more likely to use it as a drill to just do some moves...unless I can really connect with my partner. I've talked to people about this, but often the crowd cannot dance or does not like too much new stuff. This is definitely true in my area,a s i don't plan to claim knowledeg of what happens elsewhere. A nice complicated song with breaks etc was put on that I had never heard before. I went on and danced witha lady and both of us had fun. There were like 3 couples on the danec floor. And when I got off guys were saying oh...I canot find a beat...oh I cannot dance to it...on and on....

    Lots of music out there. My issue is my body/mind/sould does not respond to a song heard over and over again like a jackhammer trying to give me a splitting headache. Many a nice song destroyed for me by overplaying. :(
  17. sweavo

    sweavo Maestro 'Guaguanco' Rodríguez

    Re: Focus on the music FIRST!!by Edie "The Salsa Freak&

    Great post sagitta! I think this is what happens with me too! If a move isn't followed as it was intended, it just kinda turns into something else. Just about the only thing a follow can do to actually interrupt the flow is to think she's got it wrong and change her mind halfway around. Usually I tell my follow "don't apologize! bluff it! then no-one will know!"

    To tropical: I don't know if this goes for other leaders, but it really doesn't matter your level. If you are smilling and enjoying yourself that is enough. I've danced on2 with girls who've never salsa'd before and they have been great dances - a direct cooperation between she and I to create something fun!
  18. chrisk

    chrisk Super Moderator Staff Member

    Re: Song Before Beat - Wish They All Could

    I'm experiencing nearly the same issue here at one party. As far as I talked with some people about this, they would appreciate a regular change of the music. But it seems that our problem here stems from the "DJ", who is also one of the dance instructors. Sometime he plays some new songs, but mostly the playlists are the same for weeks. (He's overplayed Africando's new album so much, that I can't stand listening to it currently. :() So sometimes it's not the crowd, but rather the DJ who's the source for no new music.
  19. UnlikelySalsero

    UnlikelySalsero Rhythm Deputy

    Re: Song Before Beat - Wish They All Could

    Edie has it right; most guys don't take the time to understand the music, instead working on their turn patterns.

    Because music has structure, once someone knows the overall structure they can predict the hills/valleys, hit and breaks with a high degree of accuracy, even on new songs. Most guys can learn this in months and practice it regularly in their car on the drive to/from work and the clubs.

    The problem is few instructors teach the music structure AND in group classes, many guys just want more turn patterns. They get bothered if an instructor takes the time to explain how the music is structured. Some of that is an intellectual discussion and takes listening to music multiple times. Guys often want more steps and less talking, so most instructors imply the music is important, but don’t break down the details in group classes.

    Many guys don't even want to count out loud when practicing, and that is foundational IF you want to understand the music structure.

    Disclosure: I teach with Edie at her LA boot camps. I'm hardly objective about her teaching and methods.
  20. noobster

    noobster Pattern Police

    I think it also helps to be a follower. We have so much less to think about. I basically turn my brain off when I dance, whereas the guy has a zillion other things to worry about: planning the next move, leading it on time, watching for other couples, executing his own footwork, making sure he is not overstretching, manhandling, confusing or boring the follower, etc etc etc. Musicality is really important to a good dance but it still comes *after* staying on beat, connecting/smiling, and not crashing me into other people - none of which are trivial tasks for a new leader.

    I also liked salsa music before I ever started dancing to it, and I never had any problem hearing the beat - until once when I was trying to lead. All of the sudden the beat disappeared! I couldn't believe it - before that I literally did not understand what people meant when they said they 'couldn't hear the beat.' It gave me a new appreciation for the difficulties leaders face.

    I actually do not understand why the guy ends up having so much of the responsibility for the musicality of the dance. Since he's got so much else to think about, it would seem reasonable for him to just ramp down the patterns and let the follower have time to do her own thing. Unfortunately some leaders seem to fear the dance will be boring if they don't fill every second with a new pattern, when nothing could be farther from the truth.

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